Ratan Tata has invested in handset maker Xiaomi, the world’s most valued startup, as the Chinese firm makes a bigger push to capture a slice of the Indian market. For Tata, former chairman and currently chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, the holding arm of the multi-billion dollar Tata conglomerate, this comes as yet another private investment in the new technology space having backed a string of internet firms in India over the past one year.
The private investment is not as much a fundraiser for Xiaomi as it is to leverage Tata’s business advisory expertise.
Hugo Barra, vice president of Xiaomi Global, tweeted the news on Sunday.
In a separate Facebook post, he said the firm is looking forward to work with Tata as an investor and advisor to build Xiaomi’s India unit as a ‘truly Indian company’.
This is the sixth investment in the digital space for Tata after backing Paytm parent One97 Communications, Snapdeal, Urban Ladder, Bluestone and CarDekho.
Tata has turned an active venture investor a year after he hanged up his boots as chairman of Tata Sons. He is also in the advisory board of VC firm Kalaari Capital, also an existing investor in some of the tech firms in which Tata has invested recently.
Xiaomi, which entered India with its Mi3 handset a year ago and sold its products like hot cakes through its partnership with e-commerce platform Flipkart, has been pushing aggressively in the country. It has been focusing on the fast growing mid-segment of the market banking on its design and feature packed products.
Early this week, Xiaomi announced its first ‘made for India’ handset Mi 4i last week and again pegged an aggressive price to counter both local competitors and global peers such as Samsung.
This was also its first global launch of the product. Its previous handsets, including its last flagship model Mi4, were launched in India with much lag.
The Chinese smartphone maker has already carved a space for itself becoming the fifth-largest smartphone vendor in the country in Q4 2014, according to International Data Corp.
Often touted as the ‘Apple of China’, Xiaomi had raised $1.1 billion from investors such as Yuri Milner’s DST, GIC and All-Star Investment in December 2014 which took the valuation of the five-year-old firm to $45 billion. This made it the most valued startup globally ahead of global cab hailing app Uber.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)